ANNVILLE >> As Perkiomen Valley head coach Dan McLaughlin broke the huddle in shallow right field Thursday afternoon, one thing became instantly clear.
It would be the final time.
Not only for the Vikings this season, but the final time breaking the huddle for McLaughlin’s career.
Perkiomen Valley’s season came to a close with a 3-1 loss against Chambersburg during the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs at Lebanon Valley College. It was the third straight season that the District One runner-up Vikings fell in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
Even after the loss, McLaughlin was quick to put the positives into perspective.
“There are 600-some teams that play high school softball, and only six of them end the season with a win at states” said McLaughlin, who announced earlier in the season that this would be his last year. “This round is hard — it’s no easy feat getting here. You’ve got to be on your A-game every day.”
The District 3 champion Trojans took advantage of Perk Valley starter Abby Wild right out of the gates, scoring all three of their runs with two outs in the top of the first inning. The early rally was highlighted by first baseman Sam Bender’s two-run triple before pitcher Laken Myers helped herself with a single to bring in Bender from third.
That was about all Chambersburg would get.
And unfortunately for the Vikings, it was about all they would need.
With the win, Chambersburg will face District 7 champ Hempfield — a 5-0, eight-inning winner over McDowell — in the semifinal round on Monday.
With Wild dealing in the circle — she retired 14 straight batters from the second inning into the sixth — the Viking offense couldn’t generate much off Myers as the middle innings developed into a pitchers duel.
Wild pitched all seven innings where she mixed in four hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
“I was working the screwball and the change-up a lot,” said Wild, “trying to keep it low in the zone.”
Myers pitched into the sixth inning and was credited for a run on just two hits and two walks. Leah Hunt picked up the save for Chambersburg, allowing just a hit and a walk over the final two frames.
“All the pitchers you saw out there, all three of them pitched well,” said McLaughlin. “The umpire’s strike-zone was tight, but it was fair. It was like that for both teams. Just a testament to the pitchers that it wasn’t a high-scoring game, because a lot of times when you see that, that’s what you get.”
“It was really fortunate for us to get those three runs early,” said Chris Skultety, “because she (Wild) was phenomenal. She shut us down from the second inning on. Our pitchers were lights out, also. They carried us.”
Perkiomen Valley finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning. Third baseman Ashley Bangert opened it up with a double before Sela Fusco brought her home on a single back up the middle. Fusco watched two outs from 60 feet away as Hunt induced a fly out then a three-pitch strikeout to end the threat.
“We were climbing uphill all game,” said McLaughlin. “They (Chambersburg) got the two key hits when they needed them.
“We didn’t have a lot of hits but we were hitting the ball hard — they were just making the plays. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”
As he packed up his things and walked out of the dugout one final time, McLaughlin quickly shifted into a reflective mode.
“When I came up here, we wanted to build a program that can compete with the Spring-Fords and the Owen J.’s,” he said. “We wanted to be one of those teams that we know would be competing for a championship every year.
“And we did that. We did that together.”